By JOSH FRIEDMAN and KAREN VELIE
The city of Atascadero fired its police chief on Wednesday, citing incompatibility with the city’s top executive as reason for the termination.
For weeks, City Manager Rachelle Rickard discussed firing the chief after he refused to adopt her management style, sources said. When the chief returned last month from vacation, Rickard told him he was fired.
However, Atascadero’s Municipal Code requires Rickard garner city council approval before terminating a chief of police.
Rickard regrouped and asked the council, after promoting complaints against the chief made by an underling, to terminate Masterson, which the city council agreed to do on Tuesday.
Ultimately, the city released Masterson under a section of his contract that allowed for his termination on a not-for-cause basis. The clause is often included in employment contracts for municipal government executives, and it allows for termination if the worker is not a good fit, according to Rickard.
“Incompatible management styles” is the compelling reason behind the police chief’s termination, according to the city.
Bob Masterson, who is now owed more than $100,000 in severance pay, served less than two years as Atascadero’s police chief.
“Chief Masterson is a very capable chief with strong leadership skills, so it was only after very careful consideration, that it was decided to end Chief Masterson’s employment with the city,” Rickard said in a statement. “We appreciate Chief Masterson’s service to the city over the last 20 months and thank him for the dedication, integrity, commitment and heart that he brought to the job every day.”
Masterson’s employment contract entitles him to six months of salary and benefits if terminated without cause.The city has agreed to pay him $103,777, according to his severance agreement.
Before joining the Atascadero Police Department, Masterson served as the chief of the King City Police Department for 4.5 years, following an eight-year stint as the chief of the College of the Sequoias Police Department.
Masterson took over as Atascadero’s top cop in Jan. 2021, replacing former chief Jerel Haley, who retired. During Masterson’s tenure, he worked to implement programs for Atascadero’s homeless population by reestablishing the city’s Community Action Team. Masterson also sent officers to training for high-stress situations, worked to revamp the police department budget and hired seven officers and four dispatchers.
City officials will begin the search for a new police chief in the upcoming months.